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Questioning Obama’s Transpo Legacy as Fresno County Sprawls

8:15 AM PDT on October 6, 2010

By introducing new initiatives like the TIGER grant program, the Obama administration has been signaling that the car-is-king, slash-and-burn mentality that has dominated transportation policy since Eisenhower is coming to a close.

At the same time, however, the situation on the ground looks awfully familiar in much of America. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has amply demonstrated, all it takes is one guy in the wrong position to wreck a huge investment in transit. And with US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood touting recovery act projects, there are plenty of reminders that the stimulus bill is still funding business-as-usual when it comes to transportation. Network blog Systemic Failure brings us this case from Fresno County, penning a requiem for California's State Route 180. The two-lane road is being expanded east of Fresno with federal stimulus dollars at the expense of the local farming community:

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Fresno County is blasting a super highway through some of the most famous California agricultural land. Already, the old farmhouses are boarded up and/or demolished. The ‘For Sale’ signs are springing up, in preparation for the Fresno metropolitan area to sprawl 10 miles east.

Literally “a road-to-nowhere”, this 2-lane highway runs through very remote orchard and ranch land, before heading up into the Sierras and dead-ending at Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park. This project was funded through the American Recovery Act (“stimulus” dollars). Unless the Obama Administration makes radical shifts in its transportation priorities, auto bailouts and sprawl highways will be its legacy.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Publicola details how public education on bicycle and pedestrian safety helped reduce driving by 15 percent in Bellingham, Washington. World Changing outlines Philadelphia's plan to capture the energy released by breaking subway trains for sale and internal use. And The City Fix analyzes the spatial distribution of bike sharing stations in Europe and the United States, in context of Washington D.C.'s new Capital Bikeshare.

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